Looking back at the Marvel crossovers over the last few years, from Empyre to King in Black, we often find a core series with a myriad of one-shots, team-specific minis and tie-ins, all to give the sense that this event matters to the larger universe’s continuity. While Marvel has done a fine job making sure these events don’t require readers to pick up every related book, it can be overwhelming when deciding which parts of the larger narrative to explore.
The recent Darkhold event forgoes this approach and tells its tale through a small handful of key one-shots that fit perfectly into a single trade paperback. While the overall arc will likely stand as but a footnote years from now, it still provides an enjoyable ride with an odd assortment of heroes and interesting art from different stylistic corners of the medium.
Darkhold focuses on Scarlet Witch’s attempts to stop Doctor Doom from getting his hands on the Book of the Damned, a cursed tome with untold power. In addition to the initial Darkhold Alpha and concluding Omega issues, this trade collects the five single one-shots featuring the team — Blade, Wasp, Iron Man, Black Bolt and Spider-Man — gathered to retrieve the cursed item. It’s an odd assortment of heroes, but a nice way to give some of these characters room to engage with their heavyweight counterparts. Doctor Doom, in all his hubris, plans to obtain the Lovecraft inspired text to further his own aims, putting him on a collision course with Wanda and her team. It’s a perfectly serviceable premise, layering canonical lore the way only Marvel can.
Each issue other than Alpha and Omega, has a different creative team at bat. Steve Orlando and Cian Tormey cover the trade’s bookends, providing a brisk through-line for the other books to fill. My personal favorites were Iron Man (by Ryan North and Guiillermo Sanna) and Wasp (Jordie Bellaire and Claire Roe), as both these titles are visually throwbacks to ’50s and ’60s comics. Something about the scripting and blocking felt appropriate for a story engaging with Lovecraft-inspired content.
As each hero goes deeper in the Darkhold, they become twisted and debauched, sanctioning more ominous versions of the iconic heroes to mature. Each issue does a solid job exploring these grotesque versions and gives this story purpose by providing further depth to their existing lore.
Between this and The Trial of Magneto, Marvel seems to be dedicating lots of pages to rehabilitating Wanda Maximoff. I’m not entirely sure if that reflects the character’s current popularity in the MCU or a sign that Marvel has big plans for the character in the coming years, but it’s been nice to see her returned to the heroic fold as an inspiring frontrunner.
Not every crossover or event needs to leave a monumental impact; sometimes simply having a clear story to tell with an interesting roster of characters and creators is enough. On that front, Darkhold succeeds in being a focused read without significant supplemental material to comprehend. Yet, it will likely leave committed Marvel fans underwhelmed by its scale and scope.
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